West Ham quicker to the second balls in 3-0 victory over Fulham

September 1, 2012
West Ham quicker to the second balls in 3-0 victory over Fulham

This game’s main story was always going to involve the debut of Andy Carroll. 24 hours after confirmation of his loan from Liverpool, he went straight into Sam Allardyce’s first XI.

That came as little surprise – new signings often need time to settle in, but any doubt about his tactical role was unlikely. As with all Allardyce sides, it was long balls towards the big man straight away – and West Ham went ahead within a minute.

But it wasn’t Carroll’s aerial threat that directly threatened the Fulham defence. In Brede Hangeland the away side had a strong centre-back that relishes physical confrontations, and although Carroll won the majority of his aerial duels (9 from 15, 60%), he didn’t have any headed attempts on goal. His only shot was hit from outside the penalty area, and was blocked. Read more »

Modric and Song arrivals indicate Barcelona and Real are thinking about each other’s style

August 30, 2012
Modric and Song arrivals indicate Barcelona and Real are thinking about each other’s style

Last night’s Supercopa match – a 2-1 win to Real, meaning they won the tie on away goals – highlighted the huge difference in playing style between the two sides.

Real dominated the game in the opening period when the match was frantic and direct. Constant long balls in behind the Barcelona defence produced numerous chances and a red card for Adriano, and Real could have been 4-0 up before Barcelona had even started playing.

But Barcelona dominated the second half, even with ten men, as Real dropped off and let Barcelona dictate the tempo. Barcelona’s passing is quick, in terms of going from player to player, but the speed of their attacks from back to front is very slow and patient.

Real aren’t in great shape physically, and therefore wouldn’t have been able to sustain their first half aggression all game, but it was probably a mistake to allow Barcelona to assert such dominance in the second period, especially as Real had a man advantage. The key tactical feature of the game was not about positioning, but about tempo. Read more »

Liverpool 2-2 Manchester City: neither entirely comfortable with new approach

August 26, 2012
Liverpool 2-2 Manchester City: neither entirely comfortable with new approach

Liverpool scored from two dead ball situations, Manchester City scored after some poor defending.

Brendan Rodgers gave a full league debut to Raheem Sterling on the left wing, and played Sebastian Coates rather than Jamie Carragher at the back. Lucas Leiva started in midfield despite getting injured in the warm-up, and was replaced after three minutes by Jonjo Shelvey, with Joe Allen dropping into the Lucas role.

Roberto Mancini used that 3-4-1-2 system showcased in the Community Shield. David Silva was left on the bench, and Kolo Toure started rather than Joleon Lescott, with Pablo Zabaleta to the left of the three.

There was relatively little creativity from open play here, and the tactical battle was relatively unexciting despite City’s unusual formation. Read more »